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I went to Little Cayman with my husband and 2 young children - ages 2 and 6 from Feb 8 - 17. Not the most ideal situation for a dive vacation...but we wouldn't have been able to go if we didn't take them. Iíll warn you....this is a long report!
Diving with Conch Club Divers
We stayed at Paradise Villas - they have an arrangement with Conch Club. You can pre-book your diving days through Paradise while doing your room reservation, so that is very handy. They seem to be able to coordinate the schedules very nicely.
One of the conch club divemasters would pick all of us Paradise residents up each morning in their fancy side convertible van (aka sliding door doesnít close). The only day I had to carry anything around was the first (and last)...just getting everything to the boat - and it was no big deal because everyone was very willing to help...staff and other guests alike....especially because I was by myself and I was carrying my camera...(oldie but goodie...Sea & Sea MMIIex). After that, I just left my gear on the boat. After diving, we would get a ride back. It is all of a 2 minute ride. Some people opted to send their cameras and stuff in the van and ride their bikes over. They share the same dock as Reef Divers on the Little Cayman Beach Resort (LCBR) property.
Sea-esta is the same type boat used by LCBRís Reef Divers. And, Conch Club does the same valet style diving where they will set-up your gear and change you over to full tanks after each dive. No problem to fiddle with your gear after they set it up. We were the first boat to leave the dock, and the first ones back. This was great...first choice of dive site and most importantly, first to use the rinse tanks - weíd be done by the time any of the Reef Diver boats returned.
The ride to the north side was about 20 minutes...although I must admit I didnít time it. I was too busy enjoying no responsibility and getting some time to myself! I enjoyed talking with Ann, Matt, and Tim while in-transit and between dives. They are all a hoot! I also enjoyed talking to my fellow divers. The crowd I was with were more mature...40+ or approaching it soon. I enjoyed this dynamic myself...I donít know if it is the norm or not. Conch club only does afternoon dives if there are 6 or more going. They donít do night dives. However, they will help you arrange to go out with Reef Divers and will take care of transferring your equipment over. They all seemed to work well together.
In previous posts I saw some mention of a red rope separating the captain from everyone else.....it was gone and I didnít see anyone crowding the area while in transit. When we arrived at each dive site, we were given a detailed briefing of the site. Everyone is presented with the choice to follow the divemaster or to dive their own plan. Diving with computer is mandatory.
During our briefings we were also told maximum 100 ft on the first dive and 60 ft on the second. This was no big deal since the best stuff was in the shallower water anyway. As others have mentioned...no one is going to police you. They just want you to be safe and respectful of them and the other divers. If you are, it is not a problem if you drop down a bit further (I did it myself a few times). As Ann says...thereís nothing so exciting down there at 130 ft...well...maybe if we see a hammerhead chasing an eagle ray....but otherwise....
Since I was the only solo diver, I was with the divemaster. This had its advantages and disadvantages. The divemaster would typically be the last in and the first out. So, I would join another buddy pair for the last part of the dive. This was my favourite time. In the shallows there were plenty of photographic subjects and it worked out I would always find another buddy pair doing photography...it was a dynamic that worked.
The Bloody Bay wall sites were fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed the wall, the swimthroughs, and the variety of marine life. We saw sharks on almost every dive...although usually at a distance and quite a bit deeper than we were. I also had a few close encounters with turtles and squid. Lots of sting rays, schooling fish, friendly groupers, and one huge barracuda. All of the usual reef fish too. Lots of lionfish...pretty to look at, but they just donít belong there. The coral at all the north-side sites looked really nice and healthy...probably the nicest Iíve seen. The wall was dramatic. There was 1 site we went too that I forget the name of...one they donít get to very often due to weather because it was quite far out...ie next stop is Cuba...lots of pinnacles that we did circles around...really nice. During my diving, we only did 1 dive on the south side. The coral on this side seemed to be damaged, Iím assuming because of the 2008 hurricane.
This is a great place if you want to save a bit of money making a few meals yourself...breakfast and the occasional lunch. It consists of 6 small buildings right along the waterfront on the south side...literally right beside the airport. Each building consists of 2 units. The location is extremely convenient...it is also next door to the "mall" which consists of the grocery store, car/scooter rental, liquor store, and bank.
The rooms themselves are small, clean and efficient. You enter through the front porch into the bedroom. There is no door separating the bedroom from the living area...but that was not a problem for us. It made the place feel a little bigger to be open. There is a small kitchenette. It had everything you would need....coffee maker, microwave, kettle, toaster, and 2-burner hotplate, and a small fridge. Totally loaded with plates, bowls, utensils, can-opener, pot, frying pan, and a couple of large glass mixing bowls. The best part is the "back porch". This is where I enjoyed spending the majority of my time...drinking my coffee/cold beverage/wine, enjoying the oceanview and listening to the waves roll in while eating my breakfast/lunch (while keeping an eye on the kids who had a grand old time just playing with their toys and looking at hermit crabs and iguanas in the sand at the bottom of the steps). This was a very safe place for the kids...the villas are on the waterfront - but there was no way for them to get to the water...very rocky and steep hill down to the water...actual sandy ďbeachĒ access was at the far end of the villa property.
We travelled with a cooler loaded with our must have items. Our plan was to make breakfast in our room each morning and pack picnic lunches the days we planned to rent a car, and otherwise eat at restaurants (plural), but we ended up eating almost all our meals out at the Iggy because my poor husband was sick for the whole trip. We could get take-out or eat there...either option very convenient. The food was very good for the most part (pasta not so good....most of the specials were very good, and the beef tenderloin was great!). Our server Janet was super nice to the kids too...she would turn one of the 3 large-screen TVs to a kids channel to keep them happy!
Our plan for the trip kind of went up in smoke. My husband and I were going to take turns diving while the other watched the kids. We were also going to try to arrange some babysitting so the 2 of us could go diving together at some point. As I mentioned, hubby started to feel ill the night we arrived. I ended up doing all the dives and he did none. To rub it all in, he had to entertain the kids while I was off diving. I felt really bad for him, but selfishly, each diving day was getting better and better and I was thrilled to take the spots on his behalf! Because of our original plan, I decided to only bring my microprene wetsuit. After doing 2-tank dives 4 days in a row, I was starting to get cold. I was actually surprised that I wasnít cold after the first day. The water temp only read 76 on my console, but I think it must have been a bit warmer.
The days we did get a babysitter, instead of diving, we did some snorkelling. We went out to Point of Sand (where we had been the previous couple of days with the kids). It was very nice...saw a couple of nurse sharks, barracuda, sting rays, great nursery area...lots of small stuff. Our last day we drove out to the north side...took the 2nd road that crosses the island. We sat on the beach and watched Sea-esta do their first dive at the site directly in front of us. Then 3 more boats from LCBR came in. This was the first day any of them had been to the north side in 4 days. It looked like a bit of a challenge to get out as it was still a little rough. But, we finally decided to swim out and try snorkelling after all the dive boats left. It was nice! We saw a shark circling around the top of the wall right where the divers had just been during their safety stop. That was the only glimpse of Bloody Bay wall that my dear hubby saw. I just hope it was enough to make him want to try it all again some day. He currently is calling this ďthe trip from hellĒ.
One last note....we did get to see a lot of LCBR. I think if we were to go back I would like the all-inclusive option it provides. Paradise Villas was a better choice because of the kids...being able to have some meals in our room was a god-send on many days when either or both of them was not in the best mood.
Congratulations if you made it through the whole thing! Thanks for reading!
In support of my son and the brave men and women of the 3-17 Cavalry as they serve far from home. God bless and keep you.
Question of the day: Does God love me for some unexplained reason and blessed me with a wonderful wife - OR - Did God bless me with a wonderful wife and, therefore, has learned to love me for her sake?
Great post! I am going back for a short trip in a couple of weeks and this post has me wanting to pack now!
I stay at the Rhian's rental condo at Head O'Bay. We usually take a herd (or gaggle or flock, etc) of teenagers, so it is more cost effective for us. We take much of our own food too. The condo is really big and the scenery is tops!
I snorkeled over the wall there in 2005 and decide then that I would be dive certified when I went back. Amazing beauty there...you describe it well.
I was there in February as well- your report covered it well. I would just add that Conch Divers was the only boat over on the North side when it was a bit choppy which I really appreciated. We dove for 6 days and on 4 of them we were the only boat there. I thought the North was prettier than the South and the seas weren't bad enough not to go there. Their crew is excellent and they handle getting you in the water the best way.
On a SAD note, Ann (who was mentioned in the original post), recently passed away. I don't know any details, but I do know she really enjoyed life and loved diving in Little Cayman. She will be missed..